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Poster: seang Date: Dec 22, 2004 5:28am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

I'm wondering who has any opinions on this: Is is legal to take a PD movie off DVD and redistribute just the movie (not the entire DVD obviously.)

I can see that ethically, there may be issues (especially if it's a restored feature) but if the film is PD - then there is no legal recourse because there is no copyright to enforce - correct?

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or Staffakb Date: Dec 22, 2004 5:54am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

If something is public domain by definition there is no legal claim to prevent making copies or distributing it. However, its important to realize that there may be multiple versions of the same film, some of which may be public domain and some of which may be copyrighted.

A DVD made from an original print may be in the public domain. A company may take that print and perform "restoration" on it or colorize it and claim that they have put enough work into it that they claim copyright of the restoration. The original print and copies made from it are still public domain.

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Poster: seang Date: Dec 22, 2004 7:40am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

AKB WROTE:
"A company may take that print and perform "restoration" on it or colorize it and claim that they have put enough work into it that they claim copyright of the restoration."

Interesting. I wonder if there as ever been a test case on this. I know that the in the 80s and 90s, some studios were colorizing PD films (Laurel and Hardy for instance) in order to claim copyright (a commercial failure - BTW.) But I'm wondering if any entity has claimed new copyright on a PD film based on restoration alone. I could see claiming copyright by adding lost footage or colorizing, but I can't see how copyright could be claimed on a new HQ transfer from the master or even one that has been digitally restored (by removing dust and scratches) because there is no significant alteration to the PD material compared to when it was originally copyrighted.

Am I off base here?

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffRick Prelinger Date: Dec 22, 2004 11:41am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

Simply cleaning dust and scratches doesn't really constitute restoration, even though dvd distributors may use the term. A real restoration of a film is a painstaking, often frame-by-frame process, full of discretion, and certainly constitutes "authorship" in a copyrightable sense.

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Poster: seang Date: Dec 22, 2004 11:14pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

I certainly understand that Rick. But doesn't it seem ironic that by restoring a PD feature film, you can then claim authorship and copyright for essentially making the film exactly how it was when it was first released? I just wonder how this would play out legally.

I know that Universal reclaimed its copyright on "Charade" (1963) following the Criterion DVD restoration, but my understanding is that they reclaimed it by simply sending "cease and desist" letters to the other DVD distributors of the film. It never went to court.
[edit] A quick look on Amazon shows no less than 5 other version still available on DVD...

This post was modified by seang on 2004-12-23 07:14:19

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Poster: scooter_nyc Date: Jan 5, 2005 4:46pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

I'm not surprised to hear about "Charade." Since many PD distributors are small and underfunded, it would be easy for a major studio to assert copyright ownership through a simple cease and desist letter and scare people into submission. I suspect that most of these PD outfits don't have bevies of lawyers and researchers at their disposal to challenge claims that a film is still under copyright.

You can bet that if some major studio decided that it could make a dime off of "Reefer Madness" or "Little Shop Of Horrors," they wouldn't hesitate to legally assert some sort of ownership to scare away competition. Look at what happened with "It's A Wonderful Life."

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Poster: Fallout boy Date: Nov 29, 2005 10:15am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

Universal cannot reclaim its copyright - once it has expired they have lost it forever.

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Poster: scooter_nyc Date: Nov 30, 2005 2:29am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

True, but I can easily imagine a large movie studio filing a lawsuit anyway as an intimidation tactic. Small PD outfits won't have the resources to fight in court, and may just decide that it's easier to do what the large movie studio demands rather than risk expensive legal proceedings.

And of course there's always the back door of underlying copyrights. "It's A Wonderful Life" used to be PD but is no longer because someone decided that the music in the film was in fact still under copyright. Those Bugs Bunny cartoons in the Archive? Warner would tell you that they hold a copyright on all of the characters in the cartoons, so none of them are PD even if the individual titles technically are.

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Poster: Fallout boy Date: Nov 30, 2005 5:38am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

Propriety rights on "It's A Wonderful Life" were claimed on the basis story by Philip Van Doren Stern, not because of the music. If a musical score was created and first published as part of a film, it should also fall into public domain if there is no copyright notice on the film.

On the subject of characters, I know there was a court ruling that trademarks cannot be used to enforce a copyright on a public domain work, and is why the Superman cartoons are available here.

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Poster: webranger1962 Date: Jan 13, 2006 3:06am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is it legal to rip PD DVDs and re-distribute?

quote:

..... you can then claim authorship and copyright for essentially making the film exactly how it was when it was first released? I just wonder how this would play out legally.

Actually no. If you make the film identical to the way it was, it's not copyrighted. To make a claim, it would have to constitute a derivative work.

This is the theory that the public domain people use to justify copyright notices. It seems that panning and scanning is enough to create a copyright according to the courts.

There is a little caveat though. In order for a case to stuck like that, the courts would need an original print. That means one that is deposited in the copyright office.

Recently verizon lost a case over their telephone directory. The courts held that since verizon had not deposited their copyrighted work with the copyright office, the courts had no way to determine what parts of the infringed work may have been under copyright protection.

It is a never enforced felony to claim copyright in a work that is public domain.

Additionally, if the work was never registered in the copyright office a claimant is not entitled to recover legal fees from a defendant. Usually those fees would be more than the film was worth.

It would be helpful if we knew "from where the axe fell" and why archive removed what would appear to be a public domain work.

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